A troop of Boy Scouts from El Paso, Texas, was in New Mexico for a backpacking trip earlier this month when they got a bit more adventure than they had anticipated.
The 16 kids and 9 adults certainly got to test out the Boy Scout motto — “Be Prepared” — as they found themselves stranded in the scenic Gila National Forest, according to KFOX-TV.
They had planned to be out for several days, working their way to White Cabin Creek and then back along the West Fork of the Gila River.
However, as they camped along the river, the water rose and trapped them in place. It wasn’t a matter of braving some shallow water; the conditions were very dangerous and it soon became clear that the troop would require outside assistance.
“They were supposed to be out Thursday [Oct. 6], I believe, and so they actually had to, had to spend … Thursday night at that location, along with Friday night as well, before we actually had been notified,” Bob Rodgers, the New Mexico State Police Search and Rescue coordinator, told KFOX.
“We’re facing … a high-water river cross, especially at … the west fork of the Gila River there, where we can’t get anybody on the ground out there due to the … river condition.”
According to a post by one mother, parents waiting for the return of the scouts called authorities when the group failed to show up several hours after the expected time.
“Two weeks ago, Bruno was completing a 50 miler camping trip with his Boy Scout Troop,” mom Judith Jaurrieta posted on Facebook. “The weather turned and we experienced heavy rains for days. The Gila River’s current was too strong and high that crossings were ceased. Concerned parents called a search and rescue after the troop did not exit after several hours from the estimated time.”
The group was located, but the conditions did not allow for rescuers to reach them that same day.
“There was low [cloud] ceilings, there was strong winds, there was rain, there was thunderstorms in the vicinity, so those are the challenges that we as a pilot … got to take into consideration, because … it can make any mission like a high-risk mission,” Jose Hernandez, the New Mexico National Guard facility supervisor, explained.
Kurtus Tenorio, hoist operator for the New Mexico State Police, told KFOX, “We got in there … we made contact with them. We noticed that they were split between two groups and that they were kind of stranded between two … pieces of the river that kind of split the group up.”
“The river’s running pretty violently, so it was assessed by them right away, hey, we have no contact with these people. We know where they’re at, you know, can you guys get overhead and start relaying the information to us? Which we did the best we could.”
Finally, on Oct. 8, both the New Mexico State Police and the New Mexico National Guard worked together to airlift all 25 backpackers and take them to their waiting families at the Gila Cliff Dwellings National Monument Visitor Center.
“On October 8, at around 4:00 p.m. New Mexico State Police was dispatched to the Gila Cliff Dwellings National Monument for a troop of boy scouts (16 kids and 9 adults) who were stranded due to heavy rains and rising rivers surrounding their campsite,” the New Mexico State Police shared on Oct. 15.
Thankfully no one was injured, they all made it out safely and the young adventurers lived out an exciting drama that they will remember for years to come.
“We are so grateful for the experience of these rescue volunteers who airlifted us out to safety,” Jaurrieta’s post continued. “Also, to the Doc Campbell’s store and Park Rangers for their hospitality during the rescue. We were so excited over the whole thing. There was a local county article that posted the story that then exploded to national news.”
“When we first got on scene and we said, hey, there they are … it was pretty meaningful, you know?” Tenorio said.
“There was a lot of hugs, a lot of high fives. You could see them — they saw the relief coming in, and that always makes us feel good and it makes us real proud to be doing what we do.”
This article appeared originally on The Western Journal.